Most people intuitively assume that more exercise is always better; if you keep exercising, you’ll keep seeing benefits. But this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, if you exercise too much or with too great an intensity on a regular basis without enough rest in between your sessions, you could suffer the effects of overtraining.
Overtraining has the possibility of stagnating your fitness results or causing a decline in your fitness levels. It can also increase your chances of hurting yourself during exercise.
But what is overtraining exactly? And what are the best ways to notice and recover from it?
What Is Overtraining?
Let’s start with the basics of overtraining. On some level, overtraining is exactly what it sounds like: you’re training your body so excessively that you begin to run into problems. More specifically, overtraining occurs when the body does not have enough rest to fully recover from its physical endeavors.
Your body needs rest and recovery every time it experiences a tough workout. Only through rest and adequate nutrition will you be able to repair the muscle fibers that were damaged in your workout and rebuild those muscles to be stronger and more resilient. If you keep pushing yourself before you’ve achieved a full recovery, you’re only going to damage yourself further.
People suffering from overtraining usually notice a severe decline in their results, and they tend to be more susceptible to different types of injuries, such as muscle strain.
How to Spot Overtraining
Here’s the important question: how do you know when you’re overtraining? How is that any different from just pushing yourself hard?
The generic description of overtraining is exercising too much without getting enough rest between sessions. But because everyone has a different level of fitness, different levels of exercise tolerance, and different needs in terms of rest and nutrition, it’s very hard to make this assessment for a general population.
Instead, you have to focus on your individual needs and characteristics. You have to pay attention to your body and your recovery to know whether you’re overtraining or just pushing yourself in a healthy way. One shortcut here is working with a personal trainer; a skilled personal trainer will be able to put together an individualized workout plan for you, so you push yourself just the right amount without risking overtraining. They’ll also be able to recognize the signs of overtraining and guide you to further rest when necessary.
That said, if you don’t have a personal trainer, there are several signs of overtraining you can look for:
- Persistent muscle soreness. If you’re lifting weight regularly, You’re probably no stranger to muscle soreness, but you also probably recognize that muscle soreness usually goes away a day or two after your workout. If your muscles are more sore than usual, or if that soreness persists for many days, it’s a sign you’ve potentially overtrained.
- Decline or long plateau in performance. Overtraining is also characterized by a plateau or a decline in performance. If you find you’re no longer able to lift what you could lift previously, it might be because you push yourself too hard.
- Recovery delays. If you’ve been exercising for a while, you should have a good sense for how long it takes you to recover from a workout. If it seems to be taking you longer and longer to recover, that’s a bad sign.
- Loss of motivation. When you think about going to the gym, do you feel unmotivated? Do you feel a sense of dread? Working out isn’t always fun, but if it has become an absolute chore, it may be time to take a more prolonged break.
- General fatigue. Good workouts tend to provide you with more energy and motivation for the rest of the day, and sometimes for the rest of the week. But if all you feel is a general sense of fatigue, it could be a sign that you’re working out too much or that you’re pushing yourself too hard.
- Emotional distress. Overtraining can also affect your mental health and your emotions. You may be more irritable than usual, or you may find a loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy.
- Higher blood pressure or heart rate. Some people even experience physical health symptoms related to overtraining, such as higher blood pressure or increased resting heart rate.
Recovering From Overtraining
Here’s some good news. In most mild to moderate cases, overtraining is easy to correct.
- Rest. The first step on your journey to recovering from overtraining is rest. Try to avoid any intense physical exercise for several days at minimum. During this period, make sure you get plenty of sleep.
- Sufficient nutrition. It’s also a good idea to get adequate nutrition; if your body doesn’t have access to the protein and other nutrients it needs, you’re going to have a harder time restoring your muscles to their former condition.
- Self-care. Overtraining also has significant mental and emotional effects, so don’t neglect your personal wellness. Practice meditation and find ways to lower stress in your life. Spend time with the people you love and practice the hobbies that you enjoy most. This can be indispensable for a faster recovery.
- Gradual return to exercise. Once the signs of overtraining begin to disappear, you can gradually return to exercise. However, it’s important to return gradually; don’t try to set a new personal record your first day back at the gym.
It can be tough to recognize when you’re overtraining on your own, especially if you’re a type A personality who likes to push themselves to the limit and work hard. It’s even more difficult, considering that you have to push yourself and work out intensely to get the best possible results.
That’s why so many professional athletes and ordinary people passionate about fitness turn to the help of a personal trainer. If you feel like a personal trainer could help you spot the signs of overtraining or help you achieve your fitness goals, contact me directly today!
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science.
Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.
To work with Nathan directly on your personal training goals, contact him today!